"Self care" is certainly a buzzword for our times. Pinterest has 44,011 followers on its "Self care tips" board, for example. But the idea can get out of hand pretty quickly. For some, self care becomes the justification for indulgences that are not self care at all: "Having a three-scoop sundae – self care!"
And even science-based tactics that improve your mental health or pump up your energy can be costly. Self care can be synonymous with expensive massages, pricey weekends away and overpriced skin care regimens. Here's an idea: When they go high, you go low. As in, focus on some low cost health boosts that are also something your time-pressed, low-energy self could start as soon as tomorrow. Here are seven to begin with:
Steam your face at home.
It's not like spas own the concept of facial steaming – they didn't invent it! Try facial steaming at home for all the same benefits, including cleaner pores, enhanced circulation and that all-important relaxation. It's literally as simple as standing over a ceramic mixing bowl of water that was very recently simmering on the stove (carefully) and breathing in with your eyes closed for five minutes. If you want to get a little more involved, the mom blog Romy and the Bunnies suggested steaming with towels. "With this method, you submerge clean towels in hot water, wring them out, allow them to cool down to a comfortably warm temperature, and then apply them to your face."
Grow a spider plant.
Succulent gardens are cute, but don't get distracted by their appearance and end up spending lots of money. Growing just about any houseplant will make the air you breathe better for you. Plants absorb toxic compounds from the air, increase relative humidity and even do away with some of the dust that triggers allergies. Spider plants, Chlorophytum comosum, are available at most any home store or nursery, or you can get a "start" from a friend and it will root in a glass of water within a week. For just a few bucks, they'll do away with nasty chemical traces like formaldehyde. And, they're also safe for cats and dogs.
Shower when you first get home from work.
You don't need a bathtub, bath bombs or a babysitter for this simple strategy. Since you have to bathe any way, see if you can't adjust your schedule to shower right as you get home from work. This establishes a boundary between the cares of the job and your sanctuary at home. And it also makes you feel like you're literally washing away any stress or icky encounters that happened during the day so you can fully enjoy your evening.
Sure, a weekend glamping or at a four-star retreat might be even more restorative. But simply taking a five minute break each day can be plenty beneficial–and it's free. "It's important to take time to breathe," Alexandra Elle, author of a Growing in Gratitude journal told Women's Health, “adding that it can look as simple as putting your phone (or any other device) away for five minutes to just sit with your own thoughts."
Watch your posture.
Sitting up straight only takes a second and can free your stress and position your body for better health all day long. "If you're like most people, it becomes second nature to walk around with bad posture or sit hunched over at a desk, and some people don't even realize they are doing it," orthopedic surgery professor Neel Anand, M.D. told Women's Health. Instead, WH recommended, "try sitting up straight in your chair, placing your hands on your thighs and squeezing your shoulder blades together, holding for five seconds." Repeat that three or four times a day and your posture will be self-care worthy in a matter of weeks.
When Popular Science says, "Self-care doesn't have to cost you a dang thing," you should believe it. After consulting Lisa Butler, a professor of social work at the University of Buffalo, P-Sci recommended eliciting your own responses to some questions as the best way to begin a self-care journey. "What works for me? What isn't working for me? What do I want to add? What do I want to take away?" they said. "Answering these questions requires a hard look in the mirror and a commitment to identify and practice self-care activities that work for you. But unlike some of the treat-yourself-tools you see on Instagram, it's totally free."
Listen to Native American flute music.
If you thought, "That's randomly specific," you're right. But a 2014 study showed music from this traditional wind instrument could have therapeutic benefits on conditions ranging from asthma to hypertension to PTSD. But more importantly, it helps reduce anxiety and is soothing. And it's fairly cheap to download these soulful tunes on iTunes or buy them online.
If you can't get into this particular type of music, remember that listening to most any type of music will boost your cognitive powers and may help you relax. Little River Band's 'Help Is On the Way" is a good choice, too. As you begin your self-care quick start, it's good to hear the lyric "Don't you forget who'll take care of you."
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